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The system let Rosie Batty down. But she stood up.

In February last year, the justice system let Rosie Batty down. That same day she stood up.

Trigger warning: this post deals with family violence and murder.

It was a hot summer afternoon and Rosie’s eleven year old son, Luke, was playing in the cricket nets with his father, Greg Anderson. Without warning and with Rosie waiting nearby, Anderson beat Luke with a bat and stabbed him to death with a knife.

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Rosie and Luke Batty.

At the time of the murder, Anderson was facing eleven criminal charges and there were two apprehended violence orders out against him.

The justice system had let Rosie Batty down.

But she stood up.

She stood up and she spoke out. She told the media outside her house, “I want to tell everybody that family violence happens to everybody. No matter how nice your house is, how intelligent you are. It can happen to anyone, and everyone.”

Family violence doesn’t always look like you thought it would.

From that day, Rosie Batty has spoken honestly and openly about the years that she spent trying to escape a violent relationship and trying to manage her son’s interactions with his father.

She has given speeches, made public appearances, led marches and spoken to the media and politicians. At a time when many others would have crumpled, Rosie Batty drew strength from her pain.

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“At a time when many others would have crumpled, Rosie Batty took strength from her pain.”
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When our nation wanted to turn away, she made us look. She made us pay attention.

Family violence services desperate for funding.

Last night, Rosie Batty was named Australian of the Year.

This award has been presented to Rosie Batty for her remarkable work and everything that she has achieved in the past year.

But this Australia Day Award is particularly important. It is not just an award for Rosie Batty. It is an award for so many other people.

It is an award for the generations of women who have suffered at the hands of the people who should cherish them the most.

It is an award for the women today who feel fear in the one place that they should feel most safe and the most protected.

It is an award for the women who carry an impossible burden of shame and guilt because they haven’t been able to protect their children from harm.

It is an award for women who have left violent relationships and are now facing a desperately vulnerable time as they try to seek help from the courts and from police.

It is an award for the Indigenous women and the women living with disabilities who are at even greater risk of violence, every day.

It is an award for the women who are homeless because they lost everything when they ran from one nightmare, only to be confronted by another.

It is an award for women who work in family violence sector who help to lift women up when they have nowhere else to go.

It is an award for every parent and every child who is facing the unfathomable grief of losing a loved one through family violence.

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It is an award for every woman and child who didn’t survive the violence in their homes, and who aren’t here today to share in the celebration.

This award is for them. For all of them.

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Rosie Batty receiving her award. Image courtesy of Australian of the Year Awards.

When Rosie Batty accepted her award last night, she spoke honestly and openly with the nation about family violence. Her words were powerful and filled with purpose so we have included them in full here… 

I would like to dedicate this award to my son, Luke.

He is the reason I have found my voice and I am able to be heard.

Whilst we celebrate the country that we live in today, there remains a serious epidemic across our nation.

Family violence exists in every pocket of every neighbourhood. It does not discriminate and it sits across all sections of our society.

Family violence may happen behind closed doors, but it needs to be brought out from these shadows and into broad daylight.

One in six women has experienced physical or sexual abuse by a current or former partner, including some of those celebrating with us today. At least one woman a week is killed. Indigenous women experience even greater family violence.

These statistics are unacceptable, indisputable. And if they happened on our streets, there would be a public outcry.

To our government: we need your strong leadership to change these rising statistics, and your investment into both preventing the violence and long-term secure funding to our specialist women’s services to deliver the intensive support so desperately needed.

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To the Australian people: look around. Do not ignore what you see and what you know is wrong. Call out sexist acts and sexist attitudes. And speak up when violence against women is trivialised.

To men: We need you to challenge each other and become part of the solution. Raise the conversation and don’t shy away from this uncomfortable topic. We cannot do this without you.

To the women and children who are unsafe, in hiding, or living in fear; who have changed their names, left their extended families and moved from their communities to find safety: you do not deserve to live a life that is dictated by violence.

You are not to blame.

Violence to anyone, man, woman or child is never acceptable and never the right choice.

It is simply, not ok.

As the Australian of the Year, I’m committed to building greater campaigns, to educate and challenge community attitudes.

I am on a path to expose family violence and to ensure that victims receive the respect, support and safety that they deserve.

And to Luke, my little one: you did not die in vain and will not be forgotten.

You are beside me on this journey. And with me every step of the way.

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